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Looking Back: Easter Lily Capital on the South Oregon Coast
Published: 03/09/2018
 
A field of Easter lilies growing near Brookings, Oregon
A field of Easter lilies growing near Brookings, Oregon
Photo by Ben Maxwell, courtesy Salem Public Library, 7752

Often touted as the Banana Belt, the South Oregon Coast, with its mild micro-climate and fertile coastal soils provide the perfect growing conditions for lilies.

This 1941 photograph shows a field of lilies growing near Brookings. Lily production in the US got started when an American soldier loaded up his suitcase with native Japanese bulbs and headed home to the Southern Oregon Coast. He gave them to friends and family, and by 1920 commercial production began. These new farmers found the narrow strip of coastal soil from Brookings, Oregon to Smith River, California was ideal for ogrowing the showy plants. It was during World War II when import of Japanese bulbs came to a halt that this corner of the Oregon Coast became the largest grower and exporter of lily bulbs. Everyone in Brookings wanted to plant lilies and get a piece of what was called "White Gold." Some residents even ripped up their lawns to plant a small crop. Once growers found they could force bulbs to bloom at Easter time, this strip of land became known as Easter Lily Capital of the World. Today the area produces about 90 percent of the world's Easter lily bulb crop.

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